Some ruminations on a “confluence”

We’re gearing up for this weekend here in The Confluence Countdown house: wrapping up loose ends at work, taking the pet parrot in for boarding, gassing up the car, packing.

Because this is our Second Annual Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, and thus an “anniversary,” I’m looking back. It’s hard for me to believe the First Annual Confluence was only a year ago.

I’m thinking mainly about the concept of “confluence,” and how that word has deepened in meaning for me, and how I’m bringing that meaning with me down to San Diego this weekend.

The Sanskrit word for “confluence” is sangama. In English, a “confluence” is simply the place where two or more rivers meet. While this is also part of the meaning of the word in Sanskrit, both the denotation and the connotation of the word are more complex. If one of those rivers is the Saraswati River, for instance, it’s invisible to the naked eye. And all confluences are considered tirthas, sacred places. This is true at the Trivini Sangam, the meeting place of the Yamuna, Ganga, and Saraswati in Allahabad in India. Immersion in the water of a confluence is, as in the case of many cultures, a sacred act, both a literal and a figurative washing away of sins (see the recently completed Kumba Mela for more on this).

So by calling this the Ashtanga Yoga Confluence, it organizers are certainly denoting the meeting of Ashtanga’s Senior Western Teachers: Nancy Gilgoff, Dena Kingsberg, Tim Miller, Eddie Stern, David Swenson. As well as the meeting of us, their students: Certainly we’ll be seeing some old friends, and making new ones. The waters will join, and combine.

But what about the mystic Saraswati? What about the meetings that run deeper than the eye? My own sense of the practice has totally changed, and I suppose it began a year ago. When I returned to Los Angeles last year, my friend Lila Russo asked me what was my favorite moment, and I didn’t hesitate: “The Ganesha puja,” I said, and surprised the both of us. “Really?” she asked. “Yes,” I said.

Even as my body gets stronger, as I get healthier, feel physically better and more confident in my asana practice, I’ve become more

A different confluence. Photo by Michelle Haymoz
A different confluence. Photo by Michelle Haymoz

interested in the other seven limbs. My study with Tim Miller last summer, our journey to India this past winter, my talks with Robert Moses (our pilgrimage leader) has my asana attention span waning.

As I ponder my expectations for this weekend, I find myself thinking about a woman I met outside the Tirumala Venkateswara temple while I was waiting for Steve to emerge from his tonsure experience. She spoke no English, but understood I was waiting–as was she.We had both been through the long temple line and had darshan with Lord Venkatesh.  She introduced me to her son and daughter. And then she asked if Michelle would take our picture.

So we stood next to each other and posed, laughing together. Michelle came over and showed her the photo on the camera’s screen and she clapped her hands together in pleasure. Understand she wouldn’t have a copy of the photo, or ever see me again. That moment was enough for her, just to see it briefly, to clasp my hand. That was a confluence. I suppose it’s my hope that I can bring that sort of wisdom with me as I once again meet these great teachers, old friends and new.

Posted by Bobbie


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Two Ashtangis write about their practice and their teachers.

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